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Should You Buy the Fire TV Recast?

Amazon recently unveiled the Fire TV Recast, and they’re heavily promoting it alongside their regular stable of Fire TV products. But what exactly is this new device, and is it worth buying?

What’s more is that the Recast is a $229 product, making it the most expensive Fire TV device in Amazon’s lineup by a long shot (the next cheapest is the Fire TV Cube at just $119, if you don’t count the smart TVs). What you may not know, however, is that the Fire TV Recast isn’t necessarily a streaming media player like the others. Confused? You’re not alone. Let’s dig in.

What the Fire TV Recast Does (And Doesn’t)

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that the Recast is not a dedicated streaming media player like the other Fire TV devices. You still need a regular Fire TV in order to utilize the Recast, as the Recast doesn’t plug directly into your TV—it’s a device that meant to hide in the corner where you’ll never see it.

The Fire TV Recast is a tuner and DVR box for over-the-air channels. If you have an antenna set up that pulls in local channels, you can plug that antenna into the Recast, which will then give you the ability to watch those channels live from your Fire TV, Echo Show, or a mobile device using the Fire TV app.

Not only does it allow you to simply watch live over-the-air channels, but you can also record anything and watch it later. It comes with a 500GB hard drive, which Amazon says can store up to 75 hours of television content. However, you can also opt for the 1TB model for $279, which also comes with four tuners instead of just two found in the base model, which will allow you to record up to four shows all at once. Whether or not there are even four things airing in tandem on your local stations you want to record is another story of course.

In addition to in-house live-TV streaming to your TVs with a Fire TV device hooked up or tablets/phones with the Fire TV app, you can also use the device—internet speed permitting—to stream to the Fire TV app when you’re away from home. It also includes a subscription-free channel guide with program information.

Finally, and naturally, the device supports Alexa. You can use voice commands—through the Fire TV, not the Recast itself—to tell it to record shows, play them back, show the channel guide, tune to certain stations, and other expected DVR tasks.

You Need a TV Antenna to Use It. No Exception.

We’re emphasizing this point in its own section for extra clarity. The device will not work with your existing cable or satellite subscription. Before you even consider buying the Fire TV Recast, you need a TV antenna to pull in over-the-air channels. More often than not, you can usually pull in at least a few channels with an antenna, but if you live in an extremely rural area, you may not be able to grab any channels at all. If that’s the case, then the Fire TV Recast will be a completely useless device for you.

So Should You Buy It?

If you’re all set up at home with a television antenna and pull in a decent amount of over-the-air channels, the decision hinges on two things: how useful the device will be to you based on your television habits and whether or not it’s a good value compared to the competition.

For people who are primarily watching local channels for a mixture of news, sports, and content delivered by the big networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS, the Recast offers a lot of flexibility missing from regular watch-when-it’s-available viewing. Even if you stream a lot from Netflix or the like, if you’re relying on local stations for free over-the-air sports and such, it’s still something worth considering to avoid fees for online services or missing out on a game you want to watch.

So what about pricing? $229 sure does seem like a lot of money for a device like this, but it’s not too completely far-fetched. The HDHomeRun is a similar device that just comes with the tuner and no DVR. It’ll run you $179 for the Extend model. You can add DVR capabilities for $35/year, though. TiVo, that injected DVRs into the public consciousness, is still plugging along and has a similar product called the Bolt. It runs $250, supports both antenna and cable/satellite input (a big plus), but you’ll pay out the nose for the service subscription at $150 a year—that same software functionality, programming guide and all, is free with the Recast.

In light of that (and if you’re in the market for this kind of device), the Fire TV Recast isn’t too bad of a deal compared to the competition. As long as you’re happy to use Fire TV devices to handle the media output, it’s tough to beat the one-time cost, no subscription-fees model Amazon is pushing here.

However, just make absolutely sure that you’re actually able to pull in channels with your antenna before you commit to buying—because without strong source signals from the channels you’re interested in it’s nothing more than a brick.

Craig Lloyd Craig Lloyd
Craig Lloyd is a gadget expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, SlashGear, and GottaBeMobile. Read Full Bio »